February 2, 2018 | by James Greene, Jr. (L-R: Danny Young, Captain Poon, Biff Malibu, Raldo Useless)
“It’s awkward to see that the demand is so high… because people would keep coming up to me when the band was broken up to ask about a reunion… and I would think, Jesus Fucking Christ, didn’t I say this enough times already? No, it’s never gonna happen.”
The Captain laughs sheepishly after this remark, because now it is happening. Gluecifer, the bombastic Norwegian rockers who put the pedal to the metal in the latter half of the ‘90s before splintering apart in 2005, are reuniting for a series of performances across Europe in 2018. In June they’ll play at Spain’s Azkena Rock Festival and France’s Hellfest; July finds the quintet appearing at the Malakoff Rock Festival in Nordfjordeid, Norway; October will be passing into November when Gluecifer plays four shows at Oslo’s Sentrum Scene, a 1,750 capacity space that lies in the heart of their home city. Originally just two concerts were booked for Sentrum; those sold out in a matter of hours, however, forcing the group to add two more dates.
Lead guitarist Captain Poon (né Arne Skagen) took a moment recently to speak with No Recess! about Gluecifer’s surprise reformation. Specifically, the reunion’s strange genesis, what the group dynamic is like these days, his day job as a chef, and that controversial stage name.
NO RECESS!: So how did the ball get rolling on this reunion?
CAPTAIN POON: In July, I had this dream that Gluecifer was gonna do a reunion tour and we were trying to figure out all the gig dates. I woke up and said, “Fuck, this felt so goddamn real!” That very same evening, [Gluecifer drummer] Danny [Young] sent me a message saying, “Hey, I’m watching the Hellacopters at Roskilde Festival.” I said, “Wow, it’s crazy that you messaged me, because of this dream.” Danny says, “Well, maybe we should invite the guys for a meeting.” And I was like, “Whatever, I’m not gonna be the one to call that in. But I’ll be there, in the room.”
NR!: Wait a minute — you had this extremely vivid dream and Danny messaged you but you didn’t want to be the one to instigate a reunion? Why not?
POON: [laughs] I guess it’s because when the band broke up, I was the one who was a little extra bummed out. I had done so much work for the band… we never had an outside manager, I was taking care of all those things. But, you know, together we built this brand, and to shut the whole thing down… it felt like I was losing a big part of my life. It didn’t feel right. I took a big distance to Gluecifer. [In 2006] I started [my band Bloodlights], and of course got all these questions about Gluecifer. I wanted to push it away… when you’ve been doing something that long — and I was so involved — I felt like I was on the losing end, you could say. I didn’t want to do anything else or start a family, I wanted to play music.
NR!: Did you feel Gluecifer had more in the tank when you guys quit in 2005?
POON: Yeah. In fact, when [Gluecifer singer] Biff [Malibu] and [Gluecifer rhythm guitarist] Raldo [Useless] said they wanted to leave the band, I suggested we do it at a lower frequency, plan it more the way we wanted, to make it easier. But they didn’t want to do it that way. I did feel we had more good music in us. But we left when we made probably our greatest record, Automatic Thrill. We made a great move without knowing it, quitting when we did.
NR!: So Danny put out the feelers. What happened next?
POON: It took three months. Biff agreed to meet, Raldo agreed to meet, and we sat down, and it was just like in the old days. We were just like talking for an hour or so, and then Danny brought it up, doing an actual reunion. I still expected Biff to say, “No, I’m done with this…” But then he was like, “If we’re gonna do this…” And I was like, “If? If?” [laughs] So we said, “Let’s just meet in the rehearsal room.” Howie B from Bloodlights, who is a very good bassist, did a couple rehearsals with us, to check that everything was there, and it was there.
NR!: Is Howie going to be playing bass at the reunion shows or will it be someone else? Is an old bass player coming back?
POON: I can’t really say right now. We are just gonna rehearse with a couple of different bass players this week, and after that… we’ll know.
NR!: Will the set list pull from every corner of Gluecifer’s discography or will you emphasize only certain periods? Or are you not getting that specific yet?
POON: Well, we picked out songs from our whole career, but probably the songs people know the best. Of course, people don’t want to come to a show and hear the songs from the more obscure parts of the catalog. But maybe we should swap songs out. I don’t know. If you look at our first album, Ridin’ the Tiger, I don’t think it makes sense to play more than two or three songs from that. I imagine we’ll focus on stuff from later albums, like Basement Apes, Automatic Thrill.
NR!: Congrats on selling out the shows in Oslo. Did you always plan to bring the reunion home after the first festival dates? How did that play out?
POON: Yeah, I had been in touch with [the Azkena Festival] in the Basque Country of Spain, just to see what level we’re at, can we expect this amount of money or that amount of money? We got a pretty decent offer from this festival, and I thought this is something I can bring to the table [at the reunion]. When we made it official that we were gonna do [Azkena], that’s when everything went fucking crazy! [laughs] Soon we’ve sold out four nights at the biggest club in Oslo.
NR!: That’s amazing, and it’s amazing getting together with the guys is just like old times. Often that isn’t the case with these kinds of reunions.
POON: Oh, totally. With Gluecifer, we know each other. I know how Biff is, I know how Danny is, I know how Raldo is… and they know how I am. At the same time, you go into these things and try to show a better version of yourself after 12 years. Be more polite when you first meet. Treat each other with a bit more respect.
NR!: How do you think you’ve changed over 12 years? How have you evolved? Have you?
POON: [laughs] I think that’s what I told the other guys… I’m more or less exactly the same person I used to be, but I’m a little bit more easy going than I used to be. I don’t get pissed off about the small things anymore. I’m a little more relaxed.
NR!: This reminds me, it’s wild how Biff has moved from rock singing into political commentary. That’s what he does now, correct?
POON: Yes, Biff works for biggest newspaper in Norway [under his birth name, Frithjof Jacobsen], making comments on politics. When people are sent to cover events abroad, he’s one of the main guys. He’s made a pretty big career as a journalist. And because of his background, people think it’s pretty exciting to have him on board.
NR!: Have you ever found it difficult to subvert people’s expectations of you?
POON: No. I guess the way people look at me is a guy who enjoys playing rock music, which is what I am. My work beside that, as a chef, has never interfered any way at all. I’m not making a big career out of the chef thing. It just gives my life structure and some extra money. I do it a few times a week. It’s good, I enjoy it.
NR!: Your stage name makes obvious reference to Poon Lim, who survived 133 days adrift at sea after Germans sunk his British merchant ship in 1942. However, Lim never achieved the rank of Captain — he was only a second steward. So do you regret calling yourself Captain Poon and not Second Steward Poon?
POON: Why the fuck would I call myself Second Steward and voluntarily lower my rank? On the other hand, I [may have chosen] something [other than] Poon if I wasn’t only 19 at the time… [I] didn’t know my English well enough to know that poon was slang for [vagina]. Me and Biff took it from a John Holmes movie where he called himself Captain Harpoon, and we just made a short version out for my alter ego. Very smart! [laughs]
NR!: Many years ago I interviewed you for a publication that no longer exists, and one of my questions involved what you would do or where you would go with a time machine. I don’t know if you remember your answer, but you said you’d go back to 1970s New York to teach Johnny Thunders how to play guitar.
NR!: Would you like to amend that response or add anything to it?
POON: It’s a pretty cocky answer, but it’s still an answer I think is cool, so I’ll leave it!
NR!: You were never a Dolls fan?
POON: No, not really. I never got too much out of their music. I can understand that it was pretty crazy to look like that at the time… but when you compare them to the Sex Pistols, the Sex Pistols eat them for breakfast!